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Which collaborative tools are most useful for software testers?

According to expert Pete Walen, testing teams make use of various collaborative tools, including Skype, instant messaging and wikis. Here he discusses the collaborative tools available and how different testers use them.

Do software testers rely on specific collaborative tools to carry out testing efforts? How are these tools valuable to a testing team?

Collaborative tools and their use will vary by organization and sometimes by teams within each organization. This will directly impact how efficiently individuals within those groups can use such tools.   

Teams I have worked with have used a variety of instant messaging tools. Skype’s mixture of messaging, low (or no) cost calling and video conferencing is a powerful tool for groups with little or no budget for such items. (There are others, of course. Skype is merely the first example that popped into mind.) 

Less obvious collaborative tools, such as XMind, allow teams to map complex ideas and share them easily. Although XMind is not a tool that most people might consider a “collaborative tool,” I found it useful for sharing ideas which is the point of collaborative tools, no? 

If a team is located in the same building, a whiteboard in a conference room or an office (or cube) can serve as a handy collaboration tool. If your team is dispersed, wikis can serve the same purpose. I have used them to track complex ideas and sharing notes and information with the entire test or project team. 

Whether the wiki is on a closed intranet or on an open, share-capable site, such as http://meetingwords.com does not seem to impact how efficiently teams can use them. Other tools, such as Socialtext, take the idea of a wiki and allow for collaboration on a greater scale. In one case I can think of, a collaborative book on software testing was prepared using a Socialtext site. There is a cost for some of these, however, when compared to the gains in facilitated communication, I suspect people may find it worth it. 

The teams I have worked with that have used such tools have generally found them to be helpful. Anything that can help us communicate with and understand each other, our customers and clients, programmers (developers) and other co-workers, is a good thing. I have found that open communication is the key to project and team, success. These tools may help with that.

For a comprehensive resource on social media, see Social media: A guide to enhancing ALM with collaborative tools.

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